Article of the Month

September 2008

The Big Doctrine Book

 

Those who seek God have only one legitimate source for information concerning Him and His plans.  That source is the Bible.  A constant searching of it is mandatory for learning and growth.  (II Timothy 3:14-17; Acts 17:11)

 

Two New Testament books stand out for the uniqueness of their content.  One is Revelation for its focus on prophecy for the entire Gospel and Millennial Ages.  The other is Hebrews for its focus on the two primary doctrines:  (1) The offering which will be efficacious for the removal of sin, and, (2) the new Covenant which will be ratified by the blood of that offering and which will lead mankind back to perfection.

 

HEBREWS

 

This month’s article is presented to give any who are interested the most basic of overviews of this grand doctrinal treatise we call The Book of Hebrews.  Of necessity, this article will be brief; but even a brief look at Hebrews which communicates its power is enough to enthrall all who love God and His purposes.

 

The Apostle Paul, who wrote Hebrews, takes a number of opportunities to take “side trips” in this book in order to explain all kinds of important and interesting details.  However, most of us can easily lose our concentration on the main points as we read through all of the detail.  Therefore, in this article, we are going to (1) summarize the objective of Hebrews, and then we will (2) focus on a few key verses that substantiate Paul’s intent.

 

THE OBJECTIVE OF HEBREWS

 

Israel’s experience with God during the Jewish Age (as far as religious focus was concerned), was that each year they were to offer sin offerings on the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 16).  This, to this day, is the most solemn occasion in the year for a Jew.  You may know it by the name of “Yom Kippur.”  These sin offerings were annually to bring Israel back under its obligations and advantages under the Law Covenant.

 

It is Paul’s teaching that this one holy day and the covenant which it kept in force for a year were typical—that is, a picture, or a prophetic fore-gleam.  This holy day and covenant pictured the sacrifices of Jesus and his Church which, when finished, will result in the New Covenant’s being made with Israel, and through which all of the families of the earth will be blessed.

 

That’s it!  In simplest terms, that is the purpose for the book of Hebrews.

 

 

TWO BASIC CONCEPTS

 

The power of Paul’s reasonings are easily lost, however, if two concepts are not clearly understood.

 

(1) The Jewish Atonement Day sin offering involved TWO ANIMALS:  a bullock and a goat.  One represented Jesus; the other represented the Church.  In other words, while Jesus’ crucifixion is the BASIS for all sin forgiveness, God allows the Church to be offered with Jesus—to offer themselves in order to participate in the DOING AWAY WITH SIN for the entire world of mankind (as typically pictured by Israel).

 

(2) Therefore, contrary to what many have been told, the New Covenant is not yet in operation BECAUSE the sin offering (in two parts) which ratifies it HAS NOT YET BEEN COMPLETED.  The New Covenant is for the incoming age—the age we usually call the Millennium, or the Kingdom of God.  (Matthew 6:10)

 

KEY VERSES

SUBSTANTIATING THE ABOVE SUMMARY

 

(We will use the King James translation in examining these texts, but clarifying translations will be mentioned to help our comprehension.)

 

The first three verses of Hebrews substantially contain everything which Paul will develop in the remainder of the book.  These three verses teach:

 

(1) God, before Jesus’ first advent, communicated with Israel in many ways.  (This would include angels, prophets, writings, interventions, allegories, and the types and shadows of the Law.)

 

(2) Now, however, (since the first advent), Jesus is His spokesman.  Since his resurrection, he is the image of God—not only in personality and objectives, but even in the immortality of his person.

 

(3) Jesus’ first advent did something the Law never did.  It “purged our sins.”

 

(4) Now Jesus “sits” at God’s right hand.  (This seemingly inactive position represents, as Paul later explains, his waiting until his church has also spilled its blood in sacrifice so that a NEW COVENANT can begin.)

 

Having made this opening summary, Paul, in chapters 1- 9, summarizes how Jesus is greater than EVERYTHING the Jewish Law ever had to offer.

 

THE ANGELS

 

In Chapter 1, Paul will show that Jesus is greater than the ANGELS.  The angels had ADMINISTERED THE LAW (Galatians 3:19).  Paul starts with angels because he wants it clear that the NEW COVENANT will NOT be administered by angels.  It will be administered by Jesus AND HIS SAINTS!  Mercy of mercies, and miracle of miracles!  He is saying that Jesus’ faithful disciples will be greater and MORE IMPORTANT than the angels!  Paul had taught this before.  In I Corinthians 6:3, for example, he had pointed out that the saints would judge the angels!  Now, here in Hebrews, after showing Jesus’ superiority to the angels, he concludes Chapter 1 by saying that these very angels ARE APPOINTED GUARDIANS OF THE CHURCH!  (Hebrews 1:14)  He continues in Hebrews 2:5 to say that the angels will not be in charge of the new world.  But who will be?  Paul answers clearly (Hebrews 2:16):  Jesus is enlisting “the seed of Abraham,” NOT THE ANGELS! 

 

[The corrected KJV translation reads, “For verily, he took not on (did not enlist) angels, but he took on (enlisted) the seed of Abraham.”]  In Galatians 3:29 Paul had clearly taught that this “seed of Abraham” was Jesus’ disciples.

 

MOSES

 

Moses is the single most important man in all of history to Jews.  He mediated their Law Covenant—their medium of a working relationship with God.  But, now Paul wants it understood that Jesus, who will mediate the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6), is significantly greater than Moses, who was only a TYPE of Jesus’ great work.  Paul wants it understood that Moses was only a partner in a small part of the PLAN which God had built THROUGH JESUS.  (Hebrews 3:1- 4; John 1:3)

 

But again, mercy of mercies and miracle of miracles, Paul shows that WE are not servants like Moses, but sons like Jesus if we are faithful!  (Hebrews 3:6)

 

THE PRIESTHOOD

 

The Jewish Law was maintained by a priesthood which OFFERED SACRIFICES in order to inaugurate a new year under the Law.  In Hebrews 4:14, Paul shows that Jesus REPLACES that priesthood.  In 5:1 Paul shows the PURPOSE of a priest is the offering of sacrifices.  Thus Jesus must also have some kind of sacrifices to offer.  (Hebrews 8:3)  We will return to this idea soon.

 

The Jewish priesthood had weaknesses, however.  The priests offered sacrifices which ACTUALLY “MADE NOTHING PERFECT.”  (Hebrews 7:19)  They also could not administer a long-term covenant BECAUSE THEY KEPT DYING!  (Hebrews 7:23)  So Paul says a new ETERNAL kind of priesthood had to be established.  This new priesthood God calls the Melchisedec priesthood.  (Hebrews 5:10)  And Paul then introduces the REVOLUTIONARY IDEA:  Because there is a new priesthood, there will also be A NEW LAW COVENANT!  (Hebrews 7:12)

 

The new priest (Hebrews 7:15) will have the advantage of being “FOR EVER.”  (Hebrews 7:17)  And while it does not immediately bring the New Covenant, the “bringing in” of this new priesthood did establish the HOPE of this better covenant.  (Hebrews 7:19)  Thus Jesus is the “surety” (the GUARANTEE) of the better covenant.  (Hebrews 7:22)

 

Melchisedek, however, JUST LIKE AARON, (as we mentioned earlier) needs to offer the sacrifices that would seal the New Covenant.  (Hebrews 7:27)  Note carefully:  The Aaronic priesthood had to offer these repeatedly (“daily”—meaning the Day of Atonement); and notice especially:  Aaron offered TWO parts of one sin offering—first for his own sins; secondly, for the people’s.  (This will soon be seen to be SO IMPORTANT!)

 

Jesus, however, does not repeat his offering.  He does it ONCE (IN TWO parts, as we shall see). 

 

THE TABERNACLE’S “BIG DAY”

 

When Chapter 8 of Hebrews begins, Paul virtually says, “I may have lost you in detail!  But I want you to understand that we now have an ANTITYPICAL priest and tabernacle.”  Paul is underlining his main point:  The Jewish Law is over.  We now are administering the TRUE sacrifices which will bring in the TRUE covenant under the new TRUE mediator.  The promises of this are secure.  (Hebrews 8:6)  Paul repeats the concept (Hebrews 8:7), “if the first covenant had worked, we would not need a new one!”  He then quotes from Jeremiah 31.

 

In the Jeremiah 31 passage which Paul quotes is an extremely important word.  That word is “AFTER.”  He will stress the word in Hebrews 10:15 which we will soon consider.  But in Hebrews 8:9, 10, Paul is content to make his point briefly:

 

(1) Because Israel during the whole Jewish Age did not “continue in” His covenant (faithfully), the day has come (the Gospel Age) when God has “REGARDED THEM NOT.”  (Hebrews 8:9)

 

(2) Then, “AFTER THOSE DAYS” (Hebrews 8:10) of “regarding them not,” God promises to give them a New Covenant written in their hearts.”  “Those days” are the Gospel or Christian Age.

 

Paul wants, during this next section of Hebrews, to tell us what God does do during this Christian Age when He is not regarding Israel.

 

In Chapter 9:1-6, Paul summarizes the layout of the typical Tabernacle.  But he says “We cannot now speak particularly” about it.  In other words, he wants to FOCUS on one particular item of tabernacle teachings.  This he begins to do in Hebrews 9:7.   He focuses on THE DAY OF ATONEMENT—the day set aside to shed the blood which would put the covenant into effect for one more year.

 

Please be careful so we do not lose the IMPACT of Paul’s lesson.  He says, “ONCE every year, not without blood” the priests entered the “second” or “Most Holy” room of the tabernacle.  In Leviticus 16, and in Paul’s lessons in Hebrews, it is manifest and important to remember that the priest entered that room with blood TWICE.  The word “ONCE” means once-a-year—NOT entering the room “once”!  He entered once with the blood of the bullock; then he entered AGAIN with the blood of the goat.  TOGETHER these two animals constituted the ONE OFFERING for sin.

 

Now Paul can connect the Atonement Day sacrifices with the GREAT MYSTERY that Christ IS NOT ONE, BUT MANY!  Jesus is not alone; he has “body members” (I Corinthians 12:12, 14; Ephesians 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:30).  Thus, when Hebrews 7:27 compared Jesus to the Jewish priests, he shows that the Jewish priests made the two-part offering: “first for his own sins, and then for the people’s.”

 

THEN THE MYSTERY:  “…for this he (Jesus) did ONCE (not every Atonement Day) when he offered up himself.”  Thus Jesus did “THIS” (the two-part offering) by offering up” HIS MYSTICAL SELF—Jesus as the antitypical bullock “for his own (his body members’) sins, and then (his body members—the antitypical goat) for the people’s” sins.

 

This may seem hard to grasp, but Hebrews will continue to make and clarify this point.  Jesus offered himself (at Jordan) and his church (at Pentecost)—the ONE and “once-for-all” offering for sin.

 

In Hebrews 9:9-28 Paul expands upon this point.  Notice how many times he compares the TWO ANIMALS (bulls and goats) to Jesus’ offering!

 

Paul also tries to allay our fears of “entering the most holy” as a part of the sacrificing.  He shows that no Israelite would have the “conscience” to enter that room.  (Hebrews 9:8, 9)  But Jesus’ perfect sacrifice (as the bullock) DOES purge our consciences!  (Hebrews 9:14) 

 

Hebrews 9:15 shows that BECAUSE Jesus perfects our part of the sacrifice, he WILL, indeed, be able to mediate a New Covenant.

 

THE BLOOD

 

Hebrews 9:16-18 suffers extremely from poor translation.  Paul, as we have seen, is not talking about wills!  He is talking about how covenants were made.  THEY DID NOT GO INTO EFFECT UNTIL THE BLOOD OF THE SACRIFICIAL ANIMALS WAS ALL SPILLED!  Thus, the translation of these verses from Dr. Wilson’s “Diaglott” translation is imminently correct and beautiful:

 

Vs. 16    “For where a covenant exists, the Death of that which has RATIFIED it is necessary to be produced;

 

Vs. 17    because a covenant is firm over dead victims, since it is never valid when that which RATIFIES it is alive.

 

Vs. 18    Hence, not even the FIRST (Law Covenant) has been instituted without blood.”

 

In short:  Paul’s point is this:  Until the church (which was OFFERED at Pentecost) is complete, the New Covenant cannot go into effect.

 

So, Jesus (Hebrews 10:7-10) came to do God’s WILL—to give himself as a human (not typical animal) sacrifice—AND to give his church (his “body”) as the goat part of that offering.  This spilling of our blood is again mentioned by Paul in Hebrews 12:4.

 

 

THE “WAIT”

 

Hebrews 10:12, 13 shows that Jesus had made the two-part sin-offering (at Jordan and Pentecost) but could not do more UNTIL the day when he would make his enemies his footstool.  So, he “sat down…expecting” that time.  Why could he “wait” so patiently?  Because (Hebrews 10:14) by the one offering he PERFECTED the saints.  He KNEW that the offering would eventually be completed.

 

Then Paul again quotes Jeremiah 31.  The King James (and most!) translations are poor and miss the point.  Paul wants to STRESS what happens AFTER the “wait.”  AFTER the “wait” (the whole Gospel Age), God will MAKE THE COVENANT.

 

The 15th and 16th verses might be best translated:

 

15: And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, by saying AFTER.

 

16: THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS,   SAYS THE LORD:  I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM.

 

Then Paul makes his impassioned plea in 10:19.  He says (in paraphrase):  “Dearest brethren, since you know this privilege you have, since you have a conscience cleansed by Jesus’ great sacrifice on our behalf, pursue your commitment BOLDLY to have your blood enter the Most Holy as your part of the great offering for sin so this covenant can come!”

 

THE REST OF THE BOOK

 

The remainder of Hebrews is there for Paul to encourage our continuing sacrifice and our strong faith in the efficacy of what we are doing.  Ultimately (Hebrews 13:11-13) Paul reverts to the type to confirm his teaching that Jesus and we constitute the two parts of the great sin offering.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

The book of Hebrews contrasts the Jewish Law and the offerings which ratify it with the New Covenant and the offerings which are now being completed to ratify it.  The Gospel Age is the real Atonement Day.  The Bullock is Jesus; the Lord’s Goat is his church.  Once all of the blood has been spilled, the New Covenant will come—first to Israel, then to the whole world.  Thy Kingdom Come!

 

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An Offer For Readers of This Column

 

We have available a 267-page paper-bound booka complete and detailed study of Hebrews. You may order a copy if you wish. It is $10.00 postpaid.

 

Order from:

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